Looking back, meeting Britta reminds me of the film Sliding Doors: had I not missed the train by seconds, it never would have happened. I was on my way back to Vancouver from Portland OR, where Suzanne and I had been attending the phenomenal World Domination Summit (hosted by the amazing Chris Guillebeau – see my review of his book The Art of Non-Conformity here).
Suzanne (ever the responsible one!) left the previous afternoon, while I chose to stay to attend the closing party (where you can find me in this video trailer for the event, chatting with Ernest White of Fly Brother, one of the multitude of creative changemakers we met while there) and (although I didn’t know it yet) meet Britta.
One of the amazing things about WDS is that there was an instant sense of camaraderie among all the attendees, as though we were all members of the same secret society meeting for the first time but knowing already how cool everyone was going to be. So of course Britta and I knew that we were both cool simply by the fact that we had both just been there ;-) We chatted all the way to the airport about our takeaways from the event (you would had to have been in a coma not to be inspired), swapped cards when we arrived, and wished one another well.
Less than a year later, Britta has Lunapads.de up and running and is selling Lunapads at all manner of trade and consumer shows in Germany. Well, thank goodness I went to WDS, stayed up late, slept in and missed my train! She has since paid us a visit in Vancouver and we have developed a wonderful friendship as well as business relationship. I asked her some questions about her life, inspiration and future plans…
MS: When you first heard about Lunapads, what did you think?
BW: OMG. I will never forget that stunning moment of “What? There does exist an alternative to the whitey-white stinky disposables??” It was after WDS in June 2011 when we connected and I happen to think it was for a reason. I still felt overwhelmed but so aligned in heart and soul after these 2,5 very intense days of awesome and extraordinary people that I connected with and the wonderful ideas and moving speeches of people I was inspired by.
I was truly impressed and moved by our meeting and your story of how you started Lunapads and the cause for African girls (Pads4Girls) that you had developed. I felt like–Yes, I want to make a difference too, I want to make sure that women have it better than the women’s sanitary product industry makes them believe.
Where are you from?
I am from Essen, Germany. Essen is the 6th largest city in Germany in the former Coal Mine/Ruhr area. Since 2008 I have lived and worked in Berlin.
How did you decide to become more than a customer and start Lunapads.de?
After we departed in June 2011, and I was back in my old routine (in my day job developing packaging for Coca-Cola) in Germany, I felt more and more that it is time to really do something I care about, that makes a difference in women’s lives and brings the world into a direction that I personally like to live in. So it was at the end of August, approx. 2 months after WDS that we skyped and I shared with you my thoughts of wanting to be part of Lunapads. I was determined. All I needed to do was to ensure you believed I could do it and that I was the right person to help you build your business.
I have always been really conscious about the reuse and recycling of products, I grew up with the mindset of re-using resp recycling instead of throwing away things. I was never a big tampon user, still even at 41 scared by the idea that any woman could get life-threatening TSS by using tampons at any given moment. I never understood why the industry could sell this so well. I wore pads only at night and panty liners on early days of menstruation or at the end. I never liked to think how much resources it takes to produce one single night pad that was only used for a few hours. And I also need to say that I am not a believer in the industry’s hygiene claims. What I mean is that I don’t think that pads that I buy in plastic bag and keep for a few months in my bathroom stay hygienic. I rather find the idea of being able to “rewash” much cleaner and “hygienic” to be honest. With tampons I was obsessed to never make a mistake using them.
So, really only after I received the pack of samples from you to try Lunapads for real was the THE eureka moment for me. I knew “This Is It”. I was totally hooked on the products; the softness and smoothness of the fabric and its quality, that it works like a sponge; it takes and holds a lot more blood than I thought and it is so easy to wash out! I was deeply impressed on the sophistication of a cotton pad and panty liner. And to be honest, one thing that struck me completely was that I noticed there was no odor using Lunapads! What a magnificent moment that was!!
So after that experience, I was sure that if I feel this way, many other women will feel this same way too. And there it was– the idea of wanting to be more than just a customer. And I will never forget that my thought was “This I want to see in Germany – I want German ladies to use Lunapads. And I want to help women in developing countries, I want to educate and be part of a great cause!” As a person I crave interaction and influence, with Lunapads – what a wonderful opportunity.
I had dreamed of having my own business for a number of years (which is why I attended WDS and followed Chris Guillebeau and Pamela Slim just to name a few, read uncounted books, went to online marketing summits, networking events etc), I know my career and skills are well suited to marketing Lunapads in Europe.
I have been using Lunapads since Oct 2011 now and have to say that the most magical thing is that I noticed I am in a lot less pain before and during my menses. I am determined to think that it really has to do with the acceptance of my own cycle due to dealing with my menstruation. You literally see what is going on, what is happening inside you and embrace what you bring in as a woman, which seems so little accepted yet so normal and extremely powerful. So, for me using Lunapads really isn’t just using a different product. I see that there can be so much more to using Lunapads for those who are open to it.
I couldn’t be happier having started Lunapads.de alongside my day job still. And having such a supportive and loving team in Vancouver behind me to do this. Thanks so much to being able to work with you and the team to help develop the Lunapads brand worldwide.
What are some of your interests in life?
I love Yoga and running (the perfect combination for someone who is very active and lively but also a person who sometimes needs to disconnect from the world on a higher level). I love traveling which is when I am the liveliest, love exploring new places and diving into cultures and languages. I am also a technology savvy person and autodidact, so I try to learn new things everyday. I love the quote “when was the last time you did something for the first time” as I like to live by that model. It is important for me to move ahead and grow. Ultimately I love connecting with people from all over the world on sharing interests, online marketing and last but not least encouraging and supporting women in business.
What have you learned so far about how women see their bodies from selling Lunapads?
Well, I have had ladies waving their hands with disgusted mimics and gestures (eeek moment) as well as I have had ladies say “Yesterday I decided to stop using disposables – and I can’t wait to go naturally”. I noticed from the trade show “Woman” where I displayed in April, that certainly with Lunapads there is a good bit of education necessary. Many ladies greeted me with the words “Gosh, I had no idea this exists!” And others seemed a bit ashamed and I felt that the more I was talking to them openly, the more they opened up and were interested in Lunapads and the philosophy behind it.
Since you have spent a lot of time in the US, do you notice any cultural differences between North Americans and Europeans when it comes to new ideas, especially about green products?
In general I hold European women, especially northern European women to be very open and interested in products that are good, for health reasons as well as environmentally. Germans especially are hooked on the “discount idea” – they love to save money. However, Germans like to invest in good stuff too – services as well as products.
In contrast, Europeans are not as open to starting new businesses, they are not as adventurous as the North Americans are. It is harder, in a way, to create excitement. But once you have broken down the wall of skepticism and proven you have a great deal, you have a customer for life. What struck me was when I noticed how much further ahead the cloth pad market was in the US and Canada as opposed to Europe. I expected especially for US women would be lot less open to such an idea of using reusable hygiene products.
I can see from the menstrual cup business that this has spread all over Europe already. There is a least one cup maker for each European country. So in general I can see a movement towards reusing women’s hygiene products but also the consciousness and awareness of diseases such as TSS that create change.